Good Cop, Great Employee

Former Marine and law enforcement agent has found his niche at the PUD

By Rodger Nichols

Jeff Handley
A move to the engineering department at Northern Wasco County PUD is in store for longtime employee Jeff Handley. Photos courtesy of Jeff Handley

Jeff Handley has an unusual background for an employee at a public power utility. He used to be a sworn law enforcement agent for the state system of higher education at Western Oregon University in Monmouth.

The job wasn’t far from where he grew up in Salem. It followed naturally from his career as a military police officer in the United States Marine Corps.

“I spent my first 2 and a half years at Cherry Point, North Carolina, which is the largest Marine Corps air station,” Jeff says. “From there, I spent a year in Okinawa, Japan.”

He didn’t learn much Japanese while overseas.

“Just enough to ask for a phone number,” he says.

While in Japan, Jeff had time to tour some World War II battle sites. He also learned to scuba dive, which he no longer does.

“Once you’ve dived off Okinawa, it’s hard to go elsewhere,” he says. “It’s one of the top 10 dive sites in the world.” Jeff met his wife, Ashley, in college, and they moved to The Dalles in 2005. There was a familial connection to the city.

“My mother was born and raised here,” Jeff says. “She was the oldest of 6 daughters. The reason we ended up back here in The Dalles was because my family owns a ranch on Upper Eightmile. I found myself spending more time up there than anywhere else to get rid of the headache of Portland.”

The family still owns and leases out the ranch.

Ashley landed a job with Wasco County’s probation department in 2005 and recently changed to a supervisory position with the state’s Department of Human Services. Jeff says it was a lot easier communicating with her because she worked in law enforcement.

“You can relate to each other more so than a normal person would be able to relate to an issue or trauma that you experienced,” he explains.

Jeff got his start with Northern Wasco County PUD in 2006. He spent the next 12 years as a meter reader before the utility shifted to meters that could be read from a distance with a special radio. But the loss of the position wasn’t a problem for Jeff.

As a young man, Jeff served in the Marine Corps as a military police officer.

“I never let a position description limit me from taking on projects or responsibilities outside my scope of employment,” he says.

Jeff took a number of specialized classes, each time adding a new skill or qualifying for a new permit. His education includes tracking and disposing of chemical containment, disposing hazardous waste, in-depth research projects, utility staking, purchasing, warehousing, system inspections, customer service, and inventory management.

It’s easy to see why he says he does “a little bit of everything.”

Jeff recently received his certificate for utility staking from the Northwest Public Power Association. This training involves a dozen courses throughout a 3-year period, including basic surveying, contract administration, easement acquisition, and pole-line structure design and layout.

He soon will move to a position in the engineering department.

When not learning new skills or working, Jeff says he enjoys fishing, hunting, backpacking, and camping with his family.

“We have two kids: a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old,” he says. “They’re both very active in sports, so we spend a lot of time chasing them around.”

His daughter is on a ski team, and his son is on a traveling basketball team.

Jeff says the PUD is a great place to work.

”They support their employees really well with education and training, and they want to make sure their employees have as good of a relationship outside of work as they do within work,” he says. “They keep that balance.”